x
  • Country ranking ?

    33
  • Producer ranking ?

    5
  • Decanting time

    3h
  • When to drink

    now to 2040
  • Food Pairing

    Humboldt Fog Goat Cheese Crostini

The Story

With the founding of Harlan Estate in 1984, we embarked upon our mission of creating a “first growth” of California. The estate’s early vineyard development began with just six acres. Today our planting is essentially complete, with nearly forty acres under vine to the classic varietals: cabernet sauvignon (70%), merlot (20%), cabernet franc (8%), and petit verdot (2%). Invariably, the finished wine is predominately cabernet sauvignon, which we blend with varying amounts of the other three varietals as we seek to express faithfully the unique and distinctive character of the site.

Modest quantities of wine were produced in 1987, 1988, and 1989 from grapes that represented the second, third, and fourth leaf of our estate vineyard. In each of those years a small number of barrels were produced in the hope of gaining a prescient glimpse into what the character of the land—never before cultivated—might have to offer. The wines were blended, bottled, and labeled with a special designation. Though charming in their own way, these first wines fell short of our standards and aspirations, so were never released. They continue to serve as humble reminders of where we began the journey.

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Vintage 1994

1994 Average winter rainfall, cool daytime temperatures with evening and early morning marine fog.
Light showers lingered into late May, and spring temperatures were moderate.Budbreak began the second week of April, setting the stage for a late harvest. Temperatures in the early summer stayed mostly below 80°, then heated up in August and September. Harvest began in late September and finished up on October 23, yielding around 2.4 tons per acre.

tasting notes

Color very dark, nearly opaque. Remarkable viscosity. Closed at first, then opening to a slightly minty, very fresh and bright character containing earth, mineral, and distinctive forest floor aromas. Very dense flavors with an abundance of black currant, minerals, smoked herbs, and blackberry, followed by cedar, coffee and vanilla. Higher acidity and a lower pH profile play a key role in creating a sense of balance and energy.
1994 rightfully ranks as one of California’s greatest modern-day vintages and the 1994 Harlan Estate is clearly one of our best. Very classic, with lots of detail and energy. Hold for a few more years, then savor for 25-30 years so as not to miss the further complication of this stellar vintage.

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Average Bottle Price

2016 2015 2014 2012 2010 2005
1 017€ +13.9% 893€ -10.8% 1 001€ +20.7% 829€ -9.0% 911€ +35.6% 672€

This data comes from the FINE Auction Index, a composite of average prices for wines sold at commercial auctions in 20 countries. The average prices from each year have been collected since 1990. This chart plots the index value of the average price of the wines.

Latest Pro-tasting notes

19 tasting notes

Tasting note

color

Medium

ending

Long, Extensive and Pure

nose

Intense

recommend

Yes

taste

Perfectly balanced, Well-Integrated, Developing, Full-bodied, Round, Vigor and Elegant

Verdict

Transparent and Intelligent

Written Notes

Had greatness written all over it. It stood up to the previous flight of incredible Bordeaux and the 'only wine that can,' Ray added. It was indubitably great, as it always has been, one of the greatest wines ever made in California
  • 98p
Color very dark, nearly opaque. Remarkable viscosity. Closed at first, then opening to a slightly minty, very fresh and bright character containing earth, mineral, and distinctive forest floor aromas. Very dense flavors with an abundance of black currant, minerals, smoked herbs, and blackberry, followed by cedar, coffee and vanilla. Higher acidity and a lower pH profile play a key role in creating a sense of balance and energy. 1994 rightfully ranks as one of California’s greatest modern-day vintages and the 1994 Harlan Estate is clearly one of our best. Very classic, with lots of detail and energy. Hold for a few more years, then savor for 25-30 years so as not to miss the further complication of this stellar vintage.
Since the first time I tasted Harlan Estate 1994 a decade ago, I have in all tastings – blind or open – given it a perfect 100 point score. This was also the case the two times I tasted it during the research for this report. There’s just one difference – it now shows more of the classic and Bordeaux like greatness than some years ago. It is of course more intense, richer and deeper, and to be honest, also slightly more youthful than great Bordeaux wines of the same age. “For us as growers, everything during the growing season was pretty much perfect”, Don Weaver said to me when we talked about the outstanding quality of this wine. Even though the wine now has turned 16 years old, one will still find some of its primary fruit qualities, and today I would describe its texture as velvet like. There’s still enough acidity, tannins and tickeling mineral notes to make the wine taste relatively young, and if not for the slightly matured notes in the fruit, I would never have guessed the age of the wine. I normally describe this stage of maturity like the combination of a wise old man, and the curiosity and energy of a young boy. This is for sure a grand vin, and I guess that a wine like this was what Bill Harlan had in mind when he started to develop Harlan Estate. To me, this wine is at its peak, it’s absolutely perfect to drink, but I do belive it will keep well for some more years.
  • 100p
1994 Harlan - 97pts OK, so I know this wine at first smell...almost, if it is in fact the 1994. I've had the privilege of drinking it on multiple occasions if it is what I think. The main clue is the noble and fresh cassis and the subtle oak that is more than what greets you in Bordeaux of equal age. Damn this wine has class. Opaque midnight liqueur of black fruits to the eyes. Then the first sip....yes it has to be the famous 1994 Harlan Estate. It is definitely Bob Levy's hand, and the darkness and volume on the palate tells me it was the warmth and duration of the hang-time that could achieve these flavors. But not too much ripeness. The wine is flawless, and that is the only negative thing I could say about such a legend, its a bit too perfect after having all of these antique flavors of sometime under ripe nuanced Bordeaux of lower alcohol levels. This Harlan is, however an American icon, and embodies the American dream; power, weight density, volume, that acts like it is not even trying. Liquid nobility. Cheers to my home Napa Valley! Tasted May 2012
  • 97p

Information

Origin

Oakville, Napa Valley

Vintage Quality

Outstanding

Value For Money

Best buy

Investment potential

Very Good

Fake factory

None

Glass time

2h

Drinking temperature

16

Inside Information

What can I say about the 1994? I have tasted the wine for three consecutive years, and each time it satisfied all of my requirements for perfection. The opaque purple color is followed by spectacular aromatics that soar from the glass, offering up celestial levels of black currants, minerals, smoked herbs, cedar wood, coffee, and pain grille. In the mouth, this seamless legend reveals full body, and exquisite layers of phenomenally pure and rich fruit, followed by a 40+ second finish. While accessible, the 1994 begs for another 5-7 years of cellaring. It should easily last for 30+ years. Every possible jagged edge - acidity, alcohol, tannin, and wood - is brilliantly intertwined in what seems like a diaphanous format. What is so extraordinary about this large-scaled wine, with its dazzling display of aromatics and prodigious flavors and depth, is that it offers no hint of heaviness or coarseness. Harlan's 1994 comes close to immortality in the glass.

Much of this wine will be sold to the winery's mailing list customers. If you miss out on the 1994, try and get on the waiting list for future vintages. While perfect wines are few and far between, history has taught me that wineries with such lofty aspirations as Harlan Estate will continue to push the envelop of quality.

 

Wine Advocate #114
Dec 1997
Robert M. Parker, Jr. 100 Drink: 2002 - 2027 $611-$1575 (100)
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